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Published on July 13th, 2011 | by Greg

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Magellan: A World-Proof GPS

One of the things we love most about the out­doors is the sense of ad­ven­ture. You’re in the wilder­ness, camp­ing or hik­ing or moun­tain climb­ing, and there’s al­most no one else around. You might or might not have maps, but one thing you can’t re­ly on is your smart­phone. It’s a bit fright­en­ing re­al­ly- we’ve be­come so de­pen­dent on them and their easy map­ping func­tions and di­rec­tions that it can be hard to kick the habit. But bring­ing your iPhone or An­droid with you on a trip is of­ten fu­tile- there are so many ways to drop it too far or sub­merge it in wa­ter or get it rained on.

That’s why Mag­el­lan cre­at­ed the eX­plorist 710, a wa­ter­proof hik­ing GPS. We got a chance to play with the 310, their low­er-end mod­el that looks and feels sim­i­lar. But the 710 is their flag­ship and top-of-the-line, and it’s the most durable GPS we’ve tried. We dropped it, and did in fact put it in­to a small pool, with no ill ef­fects ex­cept for a small scratch. The touch­screen is an odd choice- it felt a lit­tle lag­gy and a lit­tle out-of-place at first. Even­tu­al­ly, though, we re­al­ized that it was prob­a­bly more con­ve­nient than yet more but­tons (which have their own prob­lems with seal­ing against ex­treme con­di­tions). Touch­screens are al­so hard­er to use with gloves and when wet, but this one was bet­ter than many.

Grant­ed, most users might not need all of the fea­tures of­fered on the 710, but sev­er­al oth­er mod­els are avail­able. Com­pared to the 610, the 710 adds handy city maps pre-load­ed- use­ful de­pend­ing on your use case and needs. And over the 510, it adds a pret­ty im­por­tant com­pass and al­time­ter, items that might not be need­ed for sub­ur­ban or fa­mil­iar camp­ing but are def­i­nite­ly es­sen­tial for trips fur­ther afield. And some oth­er sib­lings lose a few oth­er things- like the 3.2 megapix­el cam­era, which was a nice ad­di­tion… on pa­per. In prac­tice, it’s a bit finicky, and the pic­tures are not par­tic­u­lar­ly good, re­quir­ing even light­ing and a good steady hand to turn out well. There’s no flash and on­ly dig­i­tal zoom, but if you aren’t car­ry­ing an­oth­er cam­era, it will do. We thought the geo­tag­ging abil­i­ty might make up for the down­sides, but trans­fer­ring them was enough of a prob­lem to make it not-so-worth­while. Sure, it can con­nect via the in­clud­ed USB ca­ble, but is a bit awk­ward. Videos and au­dio cap­ture are al­so fun to play with, but you won’t be mak­ing any home movies with the 710- video qual­i­ty drops to a fair­ly low res­o­lu­tion and slow fram­er­ate.

Our first tests were walk­ing in an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment and driv­ing, nei­ther of which are op­ti­mal use cas­es. Com­pared with some oth­ers, this one takes longer to fig­ure out your lo­ca­tion, and def­i­nite­ly is not as pre­cise as your smart­phone can be. And we found the bat­tery life to be rough­ly com­pa­ra­ble- they claim 16 hours, but we on­ly got 8 or so nor­mal­ly from the two AA bat­ter­ies. Turn by turn nav­i­ga­tion will eat this a bit, and we need­ed the back­light ac­tive for day­time use, but it last a full day for most and ex­cel­lent bat­ter­ies are in­clud­ed. And plen­ty of stor­age is in­clud­ed- users have ac­cess to 3GB of the 8GB mem­o­ry and there is sup­port for Mi­croSD cards of over 32GB.

The 710 is a bit heavy, but to­tal­ly durable. There’s a nice loop for at­tach­ing to a bag or lan­yard. And the to­po­graph­i­cal maps are sec­ond-to-none. But our main com­plaints were most­ly a re­sult of the some­times awk­ward in­ter­face, where it can take sev­er­al clicks to get through the menus. In gen­er­al, it wasn’t su­per-re­spon­sive, rang­ing from slug­gish when boot­ing (a few sec­onds) to painful (when cal­cu­lat­ing routes). And though we aren’t huge in­to geo­caching, we did note that the de­vice comes with a 30-day pre­mi­um mem­ber­ship to geocaching.com, and is well-liked among those who might de­sire a pa­per­less so­lu­tion. At $500 avail­able on­line, this isn’t an im­pulse buy, and there are plen­ty of oth­er GPS de­vices that are cheap­er, faster, lighter, small­er, or bet­ter suit­ed for au­to­mo­bile use or city strolling. But the Mag­el­lan eX­plorist 710 is prob­a­bly the best out there for se­ri­ous out­door use.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.



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